Design Challenge Reveals Future Toilet Models

Here’s how some of our brightest minds are rethinking the facilities

From time to time, the editors at GOOD Magazine like to issue what’s become known as “The Half-Baked Design Challenge.” They give some of their most creative friends 30 minutes to come up with a solution to a real global problem and see what they’re able to come up with.

One of the latest challenges addressed redesigning the toilet because it draws attention to the reality that there are still billions of humans who don’t have decent sanitary conditions. Although these quickly brainstormed solutions can often be ridiculous, it does make you wonder what’s out there.

Here are three ideas that may give us a glimpse of what the world’s toilets may look like very soon.

IDEO’s Portable Toilets

Design firm IDEO partnered with Unilever and non-profit Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor in Kumasi, Ghana to do something about the less than ideal conditions there. Since the city cannot afford to build new sewers, the trio created a local service that rents out portable toilets that are emptied two to three times a week. It’s providing new jobs to operators and giving families a safe, clean bathroom that mitigates the risk of disease.

Sanergy Fresh Life Toilets

The sanitization issue is Nairobi, Kenya has gotten so bad that people toss small plastic bags of human waste out on the streets. Sanergy, a social enterprise founded at MIT has designed franchise pay toilets that collect waste in sealed containers. The cool part is that solid waste is being separated to make fertilizer for local farms. Sanergy is also on top of its marketing. They throw a neighborhood block party whenever their toilets are introduced in a new community.

Caltech’s Solar-Powered Toilet

In perhaps the most ambitious undertaking to reimagine the toilet, a team of Caltech engineers designed a toilet that uses solar power to break down waste into fertilizer and hydrogen gas. The gas provides a secondary source of energy to keep the toilet operating. Impressively, this system recovers and sanitizes water that can be used for flushing the toilet or irrigation. The toilet is currently being tested for improvements, but may make its major league debut at refugee camps in Jordan that have no plumbing.

As news of a major Ebola outbreak grab our headlines, it’s promising to see so many individuals and organizations thinking about how to improve life for others. Those of us in developed nations probably don’t spend much time thinking about waste disposal, but it’s still a major health concern for much of the world.

[h/t] GOOD

Half-Baked Design Challenge
Sanergy
IDEO

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